Kemal Bokhary
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Inquiry to stop short of urging drink ban

MR Justice Bokhary's final report on the Lan Kwai Fong tragedy is expected to demand action on public drunkenness and underage drinking but will stop short of calling for alcohol bans or wholesale legislative changes to Hongkong's liquor laws.

Sources close to the inquiry, now in its closing stages, said the judge was keen to stick to his terms of reference, dealing with crowd control, but did not feel it was his place to tackle directly wider social problems.

As a result, police would be told to make better use of existing powers to arrest drunks and underage drinkers, particularly during public events, to guard against rowdiness.

Police and licensing authorities will be told to take increased care in granting permission for public events, with strict use of the ''Bokhary density test'' to ensure that police can move through crowds.

The judge is not expected to ban street events in the trendy bar district, but will call for far tighter police control at entry and exit points, with the crowd controlled through a one-way system.

Hongkong's emergency services will be told to investigate the best way to rescue those caught in a crush of people.

Mr Justice Bokhary will also call for more regular and intensive debriefing and liaison between agencies such as the police, the Hospital Authority and the Fire Services, which should also pay attention to methods used overseas.

The inquiry has also taken note of a Bar Association submission warning the judge against widespread increases in police powers in place of more effective use of current laws.

Sources said Mr Justice Bokhary was careful to dodge ''personal hobby horses'' to avoid allegations of abuse of power in his inquiry, which the Governor, Mr Chris Patten, said was to make recommendations on measures needed to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.

Mr Patten is expected to receive the final report tomorrow, pending Mr Justice Bokhary's final approval of the draft.

Meanwhile, Hongkong police may be able to pick up advice on crowd control from their overseas counterparts when they meet at an international police conference in Britain next month.

Deputy Director of Operations, Assistant Commissioner of Police Brian Wigley, will fly to Britain on March 12 to attend the seminar, at which crowd control tactics will also feature.

Police Tactical Unit Commandant, Chief Superintendent Denis Shackleton, left for London last Thursday to meet the Metropolitan Police and other task forces to study crowd control tactics.

Both senior officers would be expected to look into the need to review police training courses after returning to Hongkong at the end of next month.

Meanwhile, legislator and Commissioner of Youth, Mr Eric Li Ka-cheung, said his commission would discuss funding for a survey on underage drinkers.

Mr Li said experts had advised the commission to do a large survey in order to get a true and accurate picture of the problem.